A matter of timing Featured

9:00am EDT February 27, 2003
Having a lot of time to plan an event is a luxury, but not one you'll always enjoy.

Perhaps you need to stage an event quickly to energize your employees or get in front of current or potential clients and customers as soon as possible. You may want to strike while the iron is hot, and a special event could be the best way to have the most impact on your target audience.

Even if you don't have a lot of time, there's no reason you can't put on an effective meeting or conference, says event planner Shelly Tolo. The most important thing when planning your next meeting on a tight schedule is to nail down the date and location, as those will drive many of the decisions that follow, including who will provide services such as catering, audio-visual equipment and bar.

If proximity to the core group you want to attend is primary, that has a major influence on location. On the other hand, if a particular type of accommodation is desired, like recreational facilities, the availability of such features might have more influence in determining location and date.

Finding a space with a big impact in a short time frame may take some imagination, but the rewards can be substantial, Tolo says. You might have difficulty finding or may not prefer a traditional space, like a hotel or a boardroom, and if that's the case, Tolo suggests investigating nontraditional venues.

"Remember to look to nontraditional meeting spaces that will have a big impact on your guests," Tolo says. "These spaces also can establish a theme that will help to drive the rest of the planning."

Nontraditional venues include:

* Museums

* Science centers

* Historical buildings

* Golf courses

* Country clubs

* Sports stadiums

* Theaters

* Colleges or universities

* Public parks

* Retreat centers

* A space at the charity your company supports

* Movie theaters

* Incomplete floor of an office building

* New facilities in a construction phase

However, when considering nontraditional space, Tolo advises, include in your decision factors like distance to the venue, availability of parking, hours of operation, fees charged, if any, and handicapped accessibility. Also check to see if the facility offers on-site catering or if it allows you to use your own vendors, if you prefer.

And if you need audio-visual equipment, don't forget to find out whether the venue can provide it.

If your selected space has a predominant theme associated with it, go with it, Tolo suggests. Decide on what meals and refreshments you will provide and meet with the caterer. If audio-visual equipment, tables and chairs are not available, hire vendors you have used before to make it easier on yourself.

And if you are really tight on time or understaffed, consider hiring a meeting or event planner. Professionals can work with you to simplify and speed up the planning process and ensure the success of your event. How to reach: Shelly Tolo, shellytolo@zoominternet.net